Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Mon, July 06

Transportation Board approves $1 million for Navajo Route 20 detour project
ADOT planning to pave 27 miles of roadway, work slated to begin in early spring and take as long as four months to complete

The proposed Navajo Route 20 detour. Photo/ADOT

The proposed Navajo Route 20 detour. Photo/ADOT

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) moved one step closer to creating a shorter detour route to Page and the Lake Powell area using Navajo Route 20.

At a special meeting of the State Transportation Board March 21, the board approved $1 million for improvements to Navajo Route 20 (N20), a Navajo Nation tribal road that runs parallel to U.S. 89, which was damaged by a landslide in February. Approximately 27 miles of N20 are unpaved.

"ADOT has been working with the Navajo Division of Transportation, the Navajo Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to pave N20 as an interim measure to shorten the detour route between Flagstaff and Page," said Dallas Hammit, ADOT deputy state engineer of development. "With assistance from the Federal Highway Administration, we are looking to use federal emergency relief funds to restore essential traffic in the region, while we work on the ultimate repair on U.S. 89."

Hammit added the detour is not a long-term solution, but will help thousands of people who are inconvenienced daily by the detour.

As part of ADOT's plans to improve the existing 44-mile-long tribal route, which is mostly a dirt road stretching from Bodaway-Gap to LeChee, ADOT would designate the road as Temporary U.S. Route 89 (U.S. 89T).

ADOT would pave the road and ensure that it could carry commercial truck traffic while repairs are made to U.S. 89. The agency is already working with potential contractors. Construction could begin as soon as late spring. ADOT expects the U.S. 89T project to take three to four months to complete.

ADOT's ability to pave Navajo Route 20 depends on agreements between the Navajo Division of Transportation, the Navajo Nation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Highway Administration.

After ADOT finishes reconstruction of U.S. 89 the road will be relinquished to the Navajo Nation. There is no timetable for reopening the highway, but ADOT officials said they are committed to restoring the travel route as soon as safely possible.

While U.S. 89 remains closed indefinitely, the current primary detour route uses U.S. 160 through Tuba City to SR 98 toward Page, which is approximately 45 miles longer than the direct route. Drivers also have the option to take U.S. 89A north to Marble Canyon toward Fredonia to reconnect to U.S. 89 in Kanab, Utah.

ADOT closed U.S. 89 north of Bitter Springs and south of Page.

ADOT is conducting a geotechnical investigation, which is the first phase of the solution. Crews are monitoring the stability of the slope and the ultimate repair of U.S. 89 will be based on the results of the geotechnical investigation.

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